I took my camera for a walk along the hedgerow this week. Here’s a random selection of berries ready for the birds. No wonder my bird table has been abandoned!
I’ve been playing with a new design over the last few weeks. I’m calling it ‘Berry Tree’ – so appropriate for this time of year don’t you think? As I look out of my studio windows I see all the hawthorn trees covered in bright red berries, so beautiful! I’ve decorated 3 or 4 of these bowls now and each time I add more berries and I think I’ll be adding yet more as the season progresses.
Having shown you around my rather messy studio here is my equally messy Raku area.
My set up is pretty compact and is on the base of an old greenhouse. Everything (gas, kiln, tools etc.) are all stored in the bin at the back and it takes me approximately 5 minutes to get everything out and going. As you can see my Raku kiln is one of those do-it-yourself jobs and suits me just fine. The disadvantage is that it is fairly small and does restrict the size and the number of pieces I can fire at any one time. On the other hand to fire too many pieces in one go would be difficult to handle as you need to transfer the work to the sawdust fairly quickly in order to get the best results. I put up the gazebo in the early summer to shield me from rain showers. It’s fine for spots of rain but I can’t work in heavy persistent wind and rain. I still have to keep an eye on the weather forecast and plan my week accordingly.
It’s been a few months since I last updated my blog. As usual it’s been a very busy time with plenty of work to be getting on with and not a lot of time for sitting and reflecting and well….. catching up!
From the minute we finished the studio and I was able to move in it’s been non-stop so I haven’t been able to show you round so to speak. I love seeing other artist’s workspaces so I nipped out and took a few photos to show you just how it is – no tidying, just how it is in all its chaos. Oh dear I feel ashamed but then it is a working studio not a showroom!
So what you can see – along the back wall I have racking containing finished work, drying pots, decorated work awaiting Raku firing and my moulds. Next to the racks is my very useful casting table. It’s a good height and nice to work at, much better than a normal desk or table. Along the front I have my work bench and this is where I spend most of my time. The windows overlook the garden and the field (along with resident cattle!). At the far end I have a Shimpo wheel which is now accessible and which I am determined to start using regularly. So out of all this untidiness comes some good work I hope. This is the challenge, this is what I strive to do, this is the fun!
That’s how I feel at the moment! I have been working hard but there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. There’s such a lot going on.
First of all a quick update on the studio. It’s up, yay, thanks to my hardworking husband!
The electrics are due to be put in within the next couple of weeks (I hope!) Actually moving in and better still working in it seem to be a few weeks away. Patience!
Meanwhile in the studio …….. trials and experiments are over and now I have to move to ‘make’ mode. Here are some of my favourites.
I will be showing at BCTF (British Craft Trade Fair) in just over a weeks time. I am looking forward to getting some feedback. Fingers crossed for a good show!
Rain, wind, storms, what a winter we’re having! Sadly I’m struggling to get the base of the new studio completed. First of all the builder miscalculated the size and the amount of materials, bricks and stone he’d need. The reason being the slope of the garden made it deceptive and the back wall of the base is some two and a half feet high but level at the front.
So in desperation on Friday my son Sam, Bryan the builder and I shifted 6.6 metric tonnes of stone and gravel and it’s still not full! It still needs compacting and a topping of concrete. The cabin comes on Tuesday. Oh dear!
In the meantime the studio is filling up with pots waiting for their final Raku firing. Yes the weather’s to blame again.
Here are some birds all lined up ready.
Progress on new things like these striped bowls is progressing slowly and they’re keeping me cheerful. I love playing with new ideas and at least here, rain cannot stop my play!
Happy New Year and let’s hope that it will be a happy, energetic and successful one for everyone.
I had a particularly hectic run up to Christmas and to be honest I ran out of steam a little bit towards the end but I’m happy to say I think I managed about 95% of the work I needed to finish by that time. I am hoping that I will have a couple of quieter months to regroup, plan and prepare for the year ahead.
What a year it’s going to be too! First and foremost a new studio. I need the space. I am falling over myself in my converted garage so I have put a deposit down on a log cabin and we take delivery in a couple of weeks or so. Oh I can’t wait. Next will be a bigger kiln. I love my little workhorse but it has limitations. I would like a controller, mine has a kiln-sitter and secondly capacity, it’s just too small. I will keep it though as it’s very useful for drying pots and warming them up prior to Raku firing.
I have been working on new shapes and designs. The first few are coming through the studio now. This is a small bowl. I have deliberately left off a foot ring.
These are the first couple I’ve taken through to Raku firing.
My first two Raku firings of the year have been taken up by Hearts for Valentine’s Day (see the top) and already the time is starting to accelerate. Hold on to your hats everyone!
I decided it was about time that I took courage and applied to exhibit my work in a dedicated ceramics exhibition. Until now I have exhibited my work alongside a mix of craft disciplines – jewellery, textiles, glass, you name it – everything, a real mix. There were two objectives I had in mind, I wanted to see how my work looked alongside more experienced potters and secondly I wanted to gauge how my prices compared. I am sure I’m not alone in finding pricing one of the most difficult areas to tackle. From my observations newcomers fall into one of two categories – far too high having rigidly followed a given formula from college or far too low due to inexperience coupled with a slight feeling of lack of self-worth. I have come to the conclusion that I fall into the latter!
I was delighted and very much encouraged to be selected at my first try. There are very many highly experienced potters/ceramic artists in Northern Potters and of the names I recognise there are many whose work I greatly admire. I was asked to submit 12 pieces for the exhibition that runs for 5 weeks.
The New Schoolhouse Gallery is situated in a lovely space right next to the Quilt Museum in York. Outside there’s a garden with paved walks, it must be fabulous in Summer! The building itself is single storey and as its name suggests, a former school. The main gallery has a high ceiling and tall windows along one side.
I arrived early for the opening and my first impression was of a room full of work, lots of plinths and with every surface used to advantage. I managed to get a couple of photographs before the room filled.
Work by Ian Howie. The piece on the left entitled ‘Fishpheasantturtle’ was my husband’s favourite and I must admit I thought it pretty stunning too!
As for my work –
I was initially disappointed that only a few of the pieces I’d sent were on show but it was explained that as pieces sold they would be replaced! That showed a certain amount of confidence on the part of the organisers then! The room soon got quite busy and as none of the makers wore any name badges I hadn’t got a clue who was who. Such a shame as I would have loved to have chatted to other makers. As a rule we’re all fairly isolated and it’s only at these sort of events that we crawl out of our studios, dust ourselves off and get to meet and chat to others. A lost opportunity in my opinion!
Here are a couple pieces still in the backroom and hopefully they’ll see light of day if this first lot sells!
Just recently I have started experimenting with smoke firing again. I love it, it’s such fun and a good antidote to the type of Raku firing I do. Once you’ve prepped your pots, loaded them into the container, popped in the sawdust or whatever you’re using (leaves, sticks, wood, straw, paper etc.) you just light the touch paper and retire. Bliss!
I tend to do my firing overnight. It means that I’m not tempted to interfere with it once it’s set alight. I have been known to poke about with a rod in an attempt to accelerate the firing which ruined the results. I lost all those subtle marks made by the slow burn and ended up with all over brown pots – not what I wanted at all!
Here are some of my recent smoked birds. I love the colours and all those random marks you can get with this type of firing, from pale greys, browns to very dark brown and black. I am reminded of pebbles on the seashore. See what you think.